Army mulls rescinding invitation to evangelist
DENVER — The Army is considering whether to rescind an invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to appear at the Pentagon amid complaints about his description of Islam as evil, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
Mr. Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, was to appear at the Pentagon May 6 on what is the National Day of Prayer. He said he would be a guest of the Pentagon and would speak only if he’s still invited.
Army Col. Tom Collins said withdrawing the invitation “is on the table,” but no decision has been made. He said Army brass will have the ultimate decision on whether to pull the invitation.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation raised the objection to the appearance, citing Mr. Graham’s past remarks about Islam.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the foundation, said the invitation offended Muslim employees at the Pentagon. He said it would endanger American troops by stirring up Muslim extremists.
GM pays back government loans
DETROIT — General Motors Co. has repaid $8.1 billion in loans it got from the U.S. and Canadian governments, a move its top officer says is a sign the automaker is on the road to recovery.
Chief Executive Ed Whitacre announced the repayments Wednesday at GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan., where he said GM is investing $257 million in that factory and the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
The White House pointed to GM’s repayment of the loan and Chrysler LLC’s posting of an operating profit in the first quarter of 2010 as concrete signs that the bailout of the U.S. automakers was working.
In a report, the Obama administration noted that the American auto industry lost more than 400,000 jobs in 2008 and analysts estimated another 1 million would have been lost had GM and Chrysler been liquidated. In the past nine months, the White House said, automakers have added 45,000 jobs, the industry’s strongest job growth in nearly a decade.
“This turnaround wasn’t an accident of history,” White House economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers said in a blog posting.
Boy hospitalized after school bus fight
ALBUQUERQUE — A first-grader underwent brain surgery after an apparent fight with another first-grader on a school bus in the southern New Mexico city of Las Cruces, a district official said Wednesday.
The elementary school boys were riding home April 14 when there was an apparent shoving match and one boy hit his head, said Las Cruces Public Schools spokeswoman Jo Galvan.
“We do not know how he ended up falling yet. … We just know he was crying when he got off the bus. The driver asked him what happened, and the kid said the other kid pushed him,” she said.
The bus driver, following district policy, contacted school officials about a possible injury.
FBI, IRS raid state senator’s clinic
NEW YORK — Federal authorities on Wednesday carted away campaign posters and cardboard boxes from a government-funded clinic run by the state Senate majority leader a day after New York’s attorney general accused him of siphoning $14 million from it.
Investigators were looking for evidence to support possible money-laundering, mail-fraud and tax-fraud charges against Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., a law enforcement official told Associated Press on Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not been completed.
On Wednesday, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo confirmed that his office is assisting federal prosecutors in Brooklyn in a criminal probe against Mr. Espada. His chief of staff, Steven Cohen, said potential charges against the senator could include mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of government funds and conspiracy.
About a dozen FBI and IRS agents and investigators from Mr. Cuomo’s office were at the Soundview Healthcare Network in the Bronx, where a canopy above the front door lists Mr. Espada as its president and chief executive.
Civil rights leader laid to rest
MEMPHIS — After years of fighting for social justice, civil rights leader Benjamin L. Hooks was laid to rest Wednesday.
Political leaders and civil rights figures gathered to pay their respects to the 85-year-old former lawyer, judge and NAACP director. Mr. Hooks died last week at his Memphis home after a long illness.
Mr. Hooks was remembered as not just a pioneer and activist, but also a dedicated preacher, loving husband and caring friend.
“Mrs. Hooks, you lost your husband, but we lost a hero,” said Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Benjamin Jealous said Mr. Hooks would want the fight for social justice to continue.
Mr. Hooks’ inspiration to fight social injustice and bigotry stemmed from his experience guarding Italian prisoners of war while serving overseas in the Army during World War II. Foreign prisoners were allowed to eat in “for whites only” restaurants but he was barred from them.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports
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